Firms tap into £1.5bn water infrastructure upgrade plan

YORKSHIRE engineering and environmental firms are set to win tens of millions of pounds of work in a huge infrastructure investment project with Northumbrian Water that will ultimately cost £1.5bn.

Consultancies Grontmij and Turner & Townsend and civil engineer JN Bentley are among 19 businesses named as preferred contractors for the utility's 10 year scheme to improve drinking water and sewerage networks in the North East, Essex and Suffolk.

Northumbrian Water's "framework agreement" means all the firms are likely to win some business from April, although the total value is not yet known. Grontmij, a Dutch engineering and environmental consultancy which has its British base in Leeds, said its share of the work could be worth up to 40m over the next decade.

Turner & Townsend, the Leeds-based group said the Northumbrian deal could be worth up to 1m a year.

Northumbrian serves 2.6 million people in the north with water and sewerage services and 1.8 million people in Essex and Suffolk with water services.

Both T&T and Grontmij said the contracts were for four years which could be renewed for a further four year period and then another two years.

JN Bentley, which turns over around 100m a year, has worked with blue-chip names such as Cadbury UK and PepsiCo. It also has a 75 per cent share in a joint venture with global consulting giant, Mott MacDonald, another preferred bidder for Northumbrian's maintenance and upgrade scheme.

Grontmij said its part in the work was expected to be worth between 2m and 4m a year with the largest part of it capital maintenance. The remainder is set to include design improvements and ensuring Northumbrian stands up to climate changes such as flooding, and helping it to grow and meet quality standards.

Paul Smedley, regional director, said: "A combination of the Grontmij collaborative and innovative culture together with the skills and experience gained from 20 years of working with the UK water and sewerage companies has been recognised by Northumbrian Water. This is testament to the fact that our project teams continue to deliver fresh ideas and sustainable solutions to the water industry."

It marks a recovery for Grontmij, which saw its first-half revenues stabilise and in June agreed to buy French engineer Ginger in a deal making it the fourth largest European engineering consultancy,

T&T will provide cost management and clean and waste water management to the Northumbrian project. Ian Walker, director of cost management, said they were "delighted" to be appointed and the project would be staffed from its Newcastle office with support from Leeds.

Dr Colin Price, technical director of Northumbrian Water, said: "This is great news for the companies chosen and the people who work for them and their sub contractors. It will be particularly welcome in these challenging economic times.

"Selecting a special group of companies to help us deliver our investment programme allows us to guarantee work and quality standards at competitive prices and means we can develop

mutually beneficial relationships.

"Although the work is of a specialised nature, many of the selected companies have a strong presence in the regions we operate in and, in turn, their success will also have a positive impact on a diverse and wide group of businesses regions-wide."

The other firms on the framework agreement list are BAM Nutttall, Barhale, Byzak, Carillion, Costain, Entec, Faithful & Gould, Graham Construction, Interserve, Lumsden & Carroll, May

Gurney, Mott MacDonald,

MWH, MWHC, Owen Pugh, and Seymour.

Last month Northumbrian Water said pre-tax profit had risen 3.1 per cent to 89.7m in the six months to September 30.